Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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Daniel Therrien
View Daniel Therrien Profile
Daniel Therrien
2014-11-24 15:48
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for the invitation to present my views on the possible privacy implications of Part IV of Bill C-43. I have provided written submissions on various parts of the bill and would like to summarize my comments for you today.
With respect to division 17, which contains amendments to the DNA Identification Act, I agree that society is well served by intensifying humanitarian efforts to locate missing persons and identify human remains.
Creating a DNA databank is a reasonable way of achieving these objectives. However, I have some reservations about the extent to which the bill permits the cross matching of the proposed new indices for these humanitarian purposes with the existing crime scene index, or CSI, and convicted offender index, or COI, which serve law enforcement purposes.
When families provide the personal effects of the missing person or their own biological samples, they are doing so to find their missing loved one or to achieve a sense of closure. While the bill recognizes that the profiles of relatives can only be compared to the missing persons and human remains indices for these purposes, the profiles of missing persons should likewise be similarly restricted and not linked to the CSI and COI to serve law enforcement purposes.
If, however, the profiles of missing persons are to be matched against the CSI or COI, and any resulting matches to be used for law enforcement purposes, the relative who provided the personal effects of the missing person should be informed of, and consent to, this matching.
I am also concerned about provisions that would increase information sharing with foreign states. This again involves the cross matching of missing persons profiles with domestic and foreign crime scene profiles, potentially leading to the investigation of an offence in a foreign state that may not be one under Canadian law.
I would therefore recommend that these provisions to increase such sharing be removed from the bill.
Regarding division 24 concerning amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the temporary foreign worker program, I'm primarily concerned with expanded use and sharing of the social insurance number, or SIN, and enhanced authority for information sharing with the provinces. While it is appropriate for Employment and Social Development Canada to use the SIN for employment-related purposes, the bill is vague on the specifics of how the SIN will be handled, and it is not clear whether the SIN could be collected and shared beyond the employment context.
I would wish to be consulted on the content of the regulations, which will include details on the use of the SIN and enhanced authority to share information with provincial governments. I would also recommend that any SIN-related privacy issues be identified in comprehensive privacy impact assessments, and that any associated privacy risks be mitigated to the extent possible.
In terms of divisions 6, 10, and 11, in my view there do not appear to be significant privacy issues of concern raised in these sections. Indeed, one amendment would allow the CRTC to impose conditions to protect the privacy of persons using those services on persons who provide telecommunications services, other than Canadian carriers. I view this as a positive move from a privacy perspective.
Finally, divisions 9, 18, 27, and 28 appear to implicate some personal information. However, it is not evident that they raise any significant privacy issues.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
I see. Okay. So we'll look at a recommendation that....
What's challenging for us, just so our witnesses understand, is that the way the process has gone with this very large bill—it's 460 pages—we have begun already to submit amendments, and we're operating on a deadline that's already essentially passed. There may be a bit of a scramble to try to incorporate some of the challenges you've put forward.
The second question you have is with regard to the attempt to improve the temporary foreign worker program. You're concerned about the allowance of SINs being cast about. The government's trying to clean up a mess. There's been a problem with this program, as has been widely identified in terms of abuses.
Will any of the recommendations you're making to us today, in terms of amendments, weaken any attempt to make this badly misused program any better and more accountable to Canadians?
Daniel Therrien
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Daniel Therrien
2014-11-24 16:17
I do not believe so. I'm not suggesting, actually, any amendments to the bill itself here. What I'm signalling is that there's a lack of detail as to the use of the SIN beyond the employment program. I'm signalling that future rules to be enacted in regulations or procedures may speak to uses of the SIN beyond the employment program.
I think there should be proper consideration of privacy issues for these secondary uses, but I acknowledge that it is reasonable to use the SIN for employment purposes.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
CPC (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome to our witnesses.
Mr. Therrien, two questions that I'm looking for a bit more clarity on were ones that Mr. Cullen raised but I don't think was quite finished working on.
The first one is the temporary foreign worker program. You had some concerns about the sharing of social insurance numbers with the provinces. I'm just trying to think of why. We share information with the provinces on a regular basis. They have the majority of control and the regulatory regime over workers. We share it not just with provincial officials but with unions and other people interested in labour market agreements. Why the concern on the SIN in particular?
Daniel Therrien
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Daniel Therrien
2014-11-24 16:33
The concern I'm raising is not related to the use of the SIN for the unemployment program but with the open-ended nature of the authority to make regulations, to share information with provincial governments for cooperation between the federal government and the provinces. That could be good, but depending on the scope of the regulations that would be made, that could lead to a problematic sharing of information.
I don't know whether the rules in question will be problematic or not. I'm just saying that the bill leaves a lot of discretion in the making of regulations. In the spirit of working with the relevant departments to ensure that privacy considerations are borne in mind, I'm asking to be consulted in future stages of the development of the program.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
CPC (NS)
I appreciate that, but you would agree that social insurance numbers in particular are shared now. I would think that information would be in the best interests of the worker vis-à-vis working with provincial authorities, labour groups, and anyone interested in the temporary foreign worker program. That information is fairly available.
Daniel Therrien
View Daniel Therrien Profile
Daniel Therrien
2014-11-24 16:34
If the use is for the employment program in question, I would not have a problem, but again, the regulations could speak to any number of purposes not necessarily employment-related.
View Frank Valeriote Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Frank Valeriote Profile
2014-10-28 11:14
First of all, thank you for the question. I too was going to open with acknowledging that our hearts and minds are with WO Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo and their families today. I know all of us are thinking of them and their families, and I thank you for saying that.
With respect to the first part of your question, particularly in times where restraint has to be shown and where there are cuts, I know from my previous practice of law and having various businesses, you had to think of ways to utilize the services that you did have. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to refine those processes so that in the age where we have to be very cognizant of our spending, this gives a perfect opportunity to eliminate some of the difficulties, the hurdles that exist right now. By eliminating some of those hurdles, we refine the system and work more effectively and not only for our constituents but also more cost effectively for the taxpayer.
The words “not limited to” were intended to explain exactly as I expressed in the bill; that is, we didn't want to be exhaustive in the bill, because frankly, I don't know, none of us know, all of the services that exist today or may exist tomorrow or a year from now that could be integrated into this one point of contact system. I also have become aware, thanks to the minister, that there are some departments that we will not have access to through this legislation. The legislation has to be currently restricted to those that use the SIN, the social insurance number. It is the intention over time to have all departments eventually aligned so that the SIN would be used and this would apply, indeed, to all the departments with whom a deceased representative would have to communicate on behalf of the deceased. There was nothing nefarious about the use of the words “but not limited to”. I just know as a lawyer who has worked on legislation and interpreting legislation that you try to be broad so that if you've missed something, it's not excluded later.
View Frank Valeriote Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Frank Valeriote Profile
2014-10-28 11:26
They raised one specific issue, and that was the fact that not all the departments will be able to immediately engage in this Tell Us Once application simply because they do not all use the social insurance number. One such department, I believe, is Veterans Affairs. I know the minister and her department are anxious to expand it to Veterans Affairs so that they too can be included in the system I speak of, the single portal, but until then, those who die and our veterans will not benefit from it. They made it clear that there may have to be an amendment to that effect, so that reference to departments that use social insurance numbers is found in the legislation, and as more departments start to use the social insurance number, they will fall into the single portal through Service Canada.
Robert Frelich
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Robert Frelich
2014-10-28 11:32
Mr. Chairman and committee members, as stated, my name is Robert Frelich, and I am the director general of identity policy and programs within Service Canada. I'm pleased to be appearing before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to assist you in your review of Bill C-247.
I will begin by explaining how the current process works with respect to death notification, what Service Canada does in the event of a death, some key issues in implementing Bill C-247 as written, and improvements we are making to better communicate with Canadians with respect to death notification.
As director general for Identity Policy and Programs at Service Canada, one of my duties is to administer the social insurance number program. This program is underpinned by the social insurance register, which houses the information on SIN holders. This register is where we store death information received electronically from provincial vital statistics agencies.
Through interjurisdictional agreements, Service Canada currently receives daily death information electronically from nine provincial vital statistics agencies. Implementation in the 10th province, Saskatchewan, is planned for fiscal year 2015-16. This approach was implemented following the Auditor General's report on the social insurance number that recommended Service Canada make better use of authoritative sources of information. With respect to death information and death data, those are the provincial vital statistics agencies.
The department began to sign agreements in 2005 with all 10 provinces, starting with Ontario, to develop electronic links between the vital statistics agencies and the social insurance register.
Under these agreements, we are able to validate the information found on provincial birth certificates, as well as to receive death data from provinces. This allows the department to identify records of deceased individuals, and to prevent further payments from federal programs from being issued, which is important as it avoids overpayments.
Service Canada discloses death information to key Government of Canada benefit programs, including the Canada pension plan, old age security, the employment insurance program, the Canada student loan program, the Canada Revenue Agency, as well as Veterans Affairs Canada through an agreement with the old age security program. These programs then, according to their own processes, update their client files or suspend benefits. These programs cover the Government of Canada benefits program that are of the greatest importance to Canadians in terms of numbers.
With respect to the bill as currently drafted, there are four key implementation considerations that I would like to bring to the attention of the committee today.
First, there are technical issues related to data matching that must be considered. To be able to match data accurately, to be able to say with certainty that the John Smith who has died is indeed the right John Smith, we need to have a unique identifier. For the purposes of the federal government, that is the social insurance number; however, not all federal departments and programs are authorized to use the social insurance number. It is currently limited to specific programs, and authority is granted through legislation or regulations. To implement the bill as drafted, all departments and programs that want to receive death notification would need to become authorized users of the SIN.
The second consideration relates to service delivery. The bill introduces the notion that the representative of the estate would be the one communicating information on death to Service Canada. By prescribing this specific mechanism, implementing Bill C-247 would require the introduction of new measures to ensure that the representative is who they say they are, that they are the official representative of the state, that the death information is accurate, and that the representative has all the required documentation.
From a client perspective, this process will be more cumbersome than what is currently in place. We receive information on deaths directly through nine provinces through the vital events linkages. For deaths in jurisdictions where the vital events linkages system is not in place, or for deaths outside of Canada, we require official documentation on the death, that is, a death certificate, but we do not require the individual to prove their own identity or authority as the representative.
The third consideration is the time that would be required to implement the bill as drafted. To protect the privacy of Canadians, there are specific legislative requirements that authorize the disclosure of information. To be able to disclose information—such as the fact that an individual is deceased—departments must enter into information sharing agreements. Our vital events linkages agreements with provinces, for example, took between three months and over a year to finalize, depending on the complexity of the negotiations and capacity of the partner, in addition to time for proper implementation.
The last consideration I would like to bring to the committee's attention relates to the cost of implementing the process proposed in the bill. There would be cost implications for Service Canada and all federal departments requesting death information. To allow electronic transmission of the information as our current processes allow, new connections to Service Canada's social insurance register would need to be established. This would cost up to $900,000 per link and $50,000 per connection for annual maintenance.
The current system works well, but we recognize there is a need to improve communication to Canadians about how it works and what they need to do when faced with the death of a loved one.
Modifying the bill will allow for quicker implementation and demonstrate a level of responsiveness to Canadians. We recognize that there are gaps in the information that Service Canada currently provides to Canadians on what to do following a death, so we are currently improving our website to increase coherence and consistency of our messaging regarding the processes in the event of the death of a Canadian resident or Canadian citizen.
We are also working with key stakeholders, such as the Funeral Service Association of Canada, building on existing practices and identifying opportunities to better inform survivors of which federal programs and departments are automatically informed of the passing, which other programs and which departments survivors may need to inform, as well as which benefits survivors may be eligible for and for which they may need to apply.
In closing, I would like to underline that as a client-facing organization, Service Canada continues to be committed to improving services that better meet our clients' needs and expectations.
I thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee, and I would be pleased to answer any of your questions.
Robert Frelich
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Robert Frelich
2014-10-28 11:42
The first consideration we have is the authority to use a social insurance number.
It may be helpful to explain in layman's terms how the current process works. If an individual passes, the death certificate is filled out by the funeral director. The death certificate is sent to the vital statistics agency of the province. That information is then verified and uploaded into the social insurance register.
What happens then is that the programs we have now update their programs electronically. We receive the electronic link from the province. The programs that use the social insurance number, for example, the Canada pension plan and the old age security program, update their programs electronically by using the updated information in the social insurance register. Currently that process is only limited to those programs and departments that are authorized to collect the social insurance number. To be able to expand this to other programs, one of the major considerations would be that we would have to expand the authority to use the social insurance number to other programs and departments.
Robert Frelich
View Robert Frelich Profile
Robert Frelich
2014-10-28 11:44
It would be difficult to speculate on how long it would take. For example, for certain programs, to get authority to collect the social insurance number would require legislative change or regulatory change. That can take some time, so it would be difficult to say. It would depend on the number of programs and departments.
We have done some initial work to look at which programs and departments actually require death notification. In our discussion with some programs, it's not only whether they'd be interested—some departments say they'd like to know—but whether or not they need it and the number of people that would use it. Volumes are important as well to ensure that if we're going to move forward with expanding the number of departments that actually use the SIN for this purpose, it's a good use of resources, in terms of the volume of information and the people who would use that information, to require that department to be informed of an individual's passing.
Robert Frelich
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Robert Frelich
2014-10-28 11:46
Treasury Board authorizes the use of the social insurance number under the directive of the use and operation of the social insurance number. Departments can obtain that authority either through the Treasury Board through regulation or they can do it through the departmental legislation. It is not for each department. Departments have to demonstrate a need to collect it, and what they would want to collect the SIN for. Given that the SIN, and more importantly the social insurance register, holds a lot of sensitive personal information about Canadians, only those departments which can demonstrate a need for it collect it. There is a process to go through to determine which departments and programs would like to collect the social insurance number and for what purpose.
Bev Davis
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Bev Davis
2014-10-28 11:47
If I may add to that, we also have to negotiate information-sharing agreements which lay out what kind of information is disclosed and for what purpose. That's another element that goes along with the Treasury Board directive on the use of the social insurance number.
Robert Frelich
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Robert Frelich
2014-10-28 11:50
In our initial analysis, we've determined that some departments that currently do not have access to the social insurance number for this purpose would benefit greatly from it.
One would be Passport. It's demonstrated in the need to be informed upon a death. Passport Canada wants to know of someone's passing so that the passport is remitted.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada would also benefit greatly from this, especially with respect to permanent and temporary residents. They have to remit their documentation and their permanent resident card or their immigration documentation.
Finally, the other major beneficiary would be Aboriginal Affairs, for benefits conferred on those with Indian status. Because of the benefits associated with Indian status, they would also require death notification in a timely fashion.
Those are the three principal departments we have identified at this point, based on the requirements of their programs. There are others. Fisheries and Oceans was mentioned, but we haven't been able to determine whether there's significant volume and whether it would be worth the investment to put that department online.
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